HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF PENTECOST (B)

Fr Michael O'Shea



Tohu va Vohu are the Hebrew words used to indicate chaos at the beginning of creation. They are found in the opening lines of the Book of Genesis. The Ruah Elohim / Spirit of God hovers over the chaos, and in the space of six days puts law and order on the chaos.

Today, in St Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he describes human chaos: “fornication, gross indecency, sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things.”

The Spirit of God, hovering over the human chaos, brings “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

The Preface of the Mass speaks of the Church coming to birth with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. St Luke describes Jewish people from all over the known world gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. Fifty days after the barley harvest is brought in, comes the time to bring in the wheat harvest. The first fruits of the wheat are offered in the Temple. The first fruits represent the whole harvest. The three thousand conversions on the day of Pentecost are the first fruits representing all of humanity. St Paul also uses the first fruits expression in relation to the resurrection of the Lord, and our own resurrection.

The Church is born in Jerusalem, and from there spreads.

Luke, early in his Gospel, says “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, …and taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” Shortly afterwards comes the rejection at Nazareth. Those who grew up with Jesus of Nazareth, the ordinary, everyday people and who were personally familiar with him, refused to believe he was any different from themselves, despite him preaching in the synagogue “in the power of the Spirit”. In the Scriptures we encounter contradiction, paradox, the human condition.

Post Pentecost, we see the other side of the coin, when we would not expect, Luke tells us “a large group of (Temple) priests made their submission to the faith”. The Gospels tell us that Jesus taught often in the Temple. (The Temple grounds are about twelve times the area of the pitch in Croke Park and are still there today). The Easter Liturgy says “Christ brought the sacrifices of old to fulfilment in the reality of the Cross.” Luke is the one Gospel writer who names a priest performing his duties in the Temple, Zechariah, father of John the Baptist. It is appropriate that a large such group should become Christians. Some say the Letter to the Hebrews is addressed to them.

In Matthew’s Gospel we read that in a dream the angel of the Lord tells Joseph that Mary has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. God reveals gradually the divine nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the presence of the deepest of mysteries the appropriate response is prayer: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”

In Eucharist Prayer II we ask the Father to send down his Spirit like the dewfall on the gifts “so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ”. While here on earth this is the closest we get to the Heavenly Liturgy. We, as Church, directly address the Father. We ask for the Spirit. The gifts on the altar are about to become the Body and Blood of Christ. Such is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are privileged to be intimately involved.

Pope Benedict, in reflecting on the Creed, and on the words “I believe in the Holy Spirit” says the remainder of the Creed reflects the work of the Holy Spirit: “the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.”

The work of bringing order to chaos continues in each of us, and in humanity.

“Come, Holy Spirit, come”